It all began with a bad meatball.
Jonathan just had to laugh about that, every time he thought about it, after he'd gotten better and the incident had become a memory. But it was true, it really had started with a bad meatball and, if Porthos had gotten his way and had half of it, things would have turned out quite differently.
He had been eating his lunch, maybe an hour after telling Hoshi that yes, it would be all right to go ahead and program the replicators for something special –and alcoholic – for the upcoming party, when he ate the actual meatball. It was good, Chef was always, it seemed, at the top of his game, and the meatball had just the right amount of basil with only a hint of oregano. Oh, yeah. It was good. And little bits of pleasure were – still were – a good thing. After all, it had been so long, so very, very long, since he'd had more than perfunctory contact with a woman of any species. Food didn't take the place of sex, of course, but hey, it couldn't hurt.
He stood up after eating, after an eager young crewman had cleared his plate and Porthos had scampered away in search of leftovers, and he suddenly felt light-headed. Then everything went a tiny bit grey, then black, and the next thing he was aware of was the eager young crewman shaking him and they were for some reason on the floor, "Wha?" was all that Jonathan could muster.
"Sir, I think you collapsed. Er, fainted. Er, collapsed," blustered the crewman. Jonathan received the distinct impression that the crewman was changing verbs in the hopes that one or the other would be better for his career.
"Yes, yes, I guess I did. I'm all right now, thank you. Uh, Jennings, is it?"
"Yes, sir. Shall I accompany you to Sick Bay?"
"No, uh, that's all right. I'll go later," Jonathan lied. Like any other captain, on any ship, any date and any time, the last thing he wanted to do was go through a battery of somewhat useless tests because of some tiny physical malfunction. It was overkill, that was all, a sop to everyone afraid of their own shadow. He had fainted. Big honkin' deal. He felt fine. There was no need to make a big production out of it.
He left Jennings behind and walked down the corridor. A little music was playing, some sort of test before the upcoming party.
Me and you and a dog named Boo
travelin' and uh-livin' off the land
More eager young crewmen – and crewwomen, hey there, what's your name? – greeted him briefly, smiling and calling him sir or by name or by title and it was all very gratifying to the ole ego. He stopped in front of Crewman Porter's quarters. He pressed a button. "Just a second!" came a female voice inside. The door opened.
"Oh, sorry, I was looking for something else," said Jonathan. This wasn't the mess hall. Or Sick Bay. Or the Bridge. Or Engineering. Or wherever the heck it was he was supposed to be.
"That's all right, sir," said Crewman Porter, who was standing in uniform, holding a hair brush, "And I won't be late today, I promise!"
"Oh, that's all right, Miss, uh, Crewman," Jonathan stammered. He turned away, ignoring her calling after him.
The floor suddenly got very near again and the next thing that happened was a lovely female voice was saying something loud and urgent into a nearby intercom. There was a large object on the floor nearby, with spikes. What a strange thing, thought Jonathan, and then he noticed a few stray strands of strawberry blonde hair in the spikes. Hair brush. Yes, one of those, uh, things.
Moments later, help arrived, and Jonathan was half-walked, half-carried to Sick Bay. Phlox looked concerned, "And you say the captain appeared disoriented?" he said. Eager young Jennings and hair brush-clutching Porter nodded. They also looked rather concerned, "Very well," The crewmen left. Phlox called on an intercom, "T'Pol, you'd best come down here. And bring Ensign Sato with you."
Phlox looked over Jonathan, "It's going to be all right. I'm going to take a scan and then you'll have some visitors, all right?"
Jonathan agreed, or at least he thought he did, but there was a sound of shouting. It made no sense but the voice was somehow familiar. It took Jonathan a few passes through his mind before he realized he was the one doing the shouting. T'Pol and Hoshi arrived shortly, just as Phlox was strapping Jonathan securely into bed restraints. They got right down to business. "Commander, it is my duty to inform you that, in my considered medical opinion, the captain is temporarily incapable of performing his duties. Therefore, I am relieving him of command at this time. Ensign, as a witness, do you have any objections to my assessment?" Hoshi shook her head, "Commander, do you agree with my assessment?"
"I do," said T'Pol, "I am hereby relieving Captain Archer of Command of the Enterprise. Doctor, please let me know if there is any change in the captain's condition. I will inform Starfleet."
"Let the record reflect that the time is 1340 hours," said Hoshi, selecting something on a small backlit PADD, "Captain, how are you feeling?"
Jonathan could scarcely move, "I, um, who?" There was a dull ache in his neck, and burning pains in his forearms. Had he been struggling against the straps for that long? Did the injection really hurt that much?
"It's all right," said Hoshi, caught up in the spirit of overassurance that seemed to be automatically swirling around any suddenly sick commanding officer, "I'll come back and check on you later, if you like," All Jonathan could do was smile at her. She reminded him of Mom. She was Mom.
"M-mom?" he stammered. Hoshi, redfaced, left quickly.
"Now, hold still, I need to take some readings," said Phlox, springing into action once they were alone again, "Oh, my, this is interesting," It was some sort of scan, and Jonathan's head hurt. A lot.
Lucidity returned for a moment or so, "Phlox, what's wrong with me?"
"You seem to have some sort of an infestation affecting your brain," Phlox punched some buttons and frowned, "It's not something I've seen before."
I've got a brand new pair of roller skates
You've got a brand new key
"Oh, dear, that intercom again," Phlox said, rushing to shut it off.
"What was that?"
"Ah, that makes sense; that you would have forgotten. A few days ago, we went to this sector to rendezvous with Columbia for a little R & R. Ensign Sato and Lieutenant Reed decided that a party would be a good idea, so that all of the shipmates could get better acquainted. Ensign Masterson suggested a seventies party, whatever that is, but it has to do with that odd music that's pumped out of the intercom at all hours."
"Seventies party?" Jonathan shook his pained, heavy head, "The Twenty seventies weren't exactly pleasant. What were they thinking?"
"Oh, no, not the twenty seventies, the nineteen seventies. Something called disco. I don't quite follow it myself, but the crew is enjoying the creation of costumes, selection of music, the dance lessons and all of that. I think I'll see if I can work on some sort of closely-monitored experiment during the festivities."
"Wha – fes?" Lucidity was again gone.
Phlox fiddled with controls and made adjustments over Jonathan's head and it was all very complicated and strange so he went to sleep.
A voice roused him. It was, it was familiar. It was Daniels. Daniels? Was that even possible? "I didn't think we'd see each other again. I thought you were deep into the future."
"I am. I was. But I'm here because there's been a wrinkle."
"And you're here to iron it?" asked Jonathan.
"You could say that. You've been experiencing the first stages of a Nokarid infestation. So this time is very critical," explained Daniels.
"A what infestation? Is there any way you could possibly be a little less elliptical?"
"Yes, of course. The Nokarid are microscopic organisms. There are only about twenty-five or so of them and they were all living in the meatball you ate this afternoon. Right now, they've taken up residence in your brain."
"Couldn't you have prevented this from happening in the first place?" Jonathan was a bit frustrated.
"In theory, yes, but the Nokarid give off an enzyme that will, in the future, protect you from Rigellian fever. So you had to be infected, er, infested, but only briefly. And since the Nokarid are an intelligent, albeit communal, life form, I'm under orders to protect them from destruction while at the same time removing them from your noggin."
"Isn't Phlox doing that? Wait a second, where is Phlox?"
"Oh, he's right here," assured Daniels, "And so are we. But I am, to you, a hallucination. It makes perfect sense to Phlox that you would be talking to yourself. So in the meantime I talk to you and work with you, while emitters are focused on the Nokarid and your brain tissue, separating the two from each other."
"Does Phlox know what you're doing here?"
"No. This is a quick, on the side kind of an intervention. And when it's all over with, Phlox will be left with some useless microscopic tissue, the Nokarid will be in my time period, and you'll be recovering. You will, of course, forget that I'm here, or at least your conscious mind will forget. But my chief mission concerns your unconscious mind."
"Oh?" Jonathan straightened up, or at least thought he did, although in reality he was still prostrate on Phlox's table.
"Yes. You see, in the alternate history, you lost your confidence as a result of the infestation. So I'm here to not only save a tiny endangered species and help restore you to physical health, but I'm also here to give you assurances."
"Yes. I'm here to show you some good things, things in Enterprise's future."
"Not my own personal future?"
"No. We've tried that, and it didn't work. So instead my colleagues and I have decided that the best course of action is to show you what happens to the ship, or the series of ships, called Enterprise."
"You're going to show me films of Enterprise getting a wash and wax and an oil change?"
Daniels smiled. "They've really got you."
"The Nokarid. See, in the alternate timeline, you lose your confidence, but you become funny. So you leave Starfleet and put together an act. You're good, lots of fun to watch, but of course it would be better if you remained captain of the Enterprise."
"Are the Nokarids evil?"
"Nokarid, no s, they're individuals but part of a larger entity, almost like bees in a hive or the parts of a cell. And no, they're not evil, per se, they're not trying to hurt you, they're just colonizing."
"Oh. So, shall we get started? I don't feel like being colonized."
"That makes sense to me. Come with me," Daniels beckoned.
"I'm strapped to a table, or at least I think I am."
"True. I mean, in your mind. Come with me," The scenery suddenly changed, and Jonathan saw a planet. There were men on it, two women and a male Vulcan. The scene zoomed in on one man.
"That's Christopher Pike and this is Talos IV. He is a captain who came after you. Not your immediate successor, but he came later and he's noteworthy for a lot of reasons but the main one is that he gave this man" – here the Vulcan zoomed into view – "a chance. And the Vulcan was with Enterprise for a long time."
"Is he related to T'Pol?" asked Jonathan.
"No, not family-wise, only in the sense that they are both science officers and eventually this Vulcan, Spock, also becomes a second-in-command. And Pike, he's an adventurer. Good at improvising, very slick. Not much of a diplomat but he got the job done. He was holding the fort until this man came along."
The scene changed again and it was the bridge of some sort of futuristic ship. A young captain, the same Vulcan, only a lot older, a short-skirted officer and a few other men."Who's she?"
"Keep focused, cowboy," said Daniels, "That's Lieutenant Uhura, she has the same job that Ensign Sato currently has."
"Hoshi never wore anything like that."
"True enough. But unfortunately we're not here to focus on Miss Uhura. Instead, this is Captain James Kirk. And I'm sure you recognize Spock. Kirk is tough, fearless and creative. This is the bridge of the Enterprise and Kirk is in the middle of something called the Corbomite Maneuver."
"The Cor– oh, never mind, but it's a very clever strategy designed to get him out of a very tight spot," The scene changed to another planet and another crew.
"Who are they?"
"That's Captain Shaw; he has just destroyed the Enterprise so that it would not be captured by the Federation's enemies. He and his crew are waiting for rescue."
"I don't know if this is helping me, confidence-wise, or not," admitted Jonathan.
"Don't worry, there's more," Daniels changed the scene again.
"Who's the bald man?"
"Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the Enterprise. Here he is with Q."
"Q? Where's R?"
"Gotta love those Nokarid, eh?" Daniels smiled wryly, "The Q are a certain form of advanced intelligence. I can't tell you more, but Picard is outsmarting Q at this very moment."
"Good for Picard," said Jonathan, "So, where did all the short skirts go?"
"You really do have more on your brain than the ship. Can't blame the Nokarid for that."
Jonathan smiled, "So the horniness is all me?"
"Mostly, it's almost like being a little drunk. Your inhibitions fall. It's not bad so long as you don't do anything too drastic, like blow up a starship or get married."
"Ah. Hey, what's this scene?" asked Jonathan.
"That's Captain Miyang Sulu. She's from about three hundred years before me. One of her ancestors served with Kirk. She's carrying medical supplies to the colony on Ruskin VIII, in the Delta Quadrant. It's a long trip, but she's been able to inspire her crew to optimize everything on board."
"She sounds very intelligent and I won't mention her lack of short skirt," Jonathan grinned.
"Cute. This is Kerig, he's captain after her. He went into combat and only two crew members returned, but the Borg had renewed respect for the Federation after that and have not bothered us for centuries."
"Wait a second. First off, he's a Klingon. And second, you said Sulu was from three hundred years before you, then this guy, this Kerig, is from after her, and now you're saying maybe a millennium of time has passed and, argh, I know you can travel through time and all of that, but that just seems like you leaping ahead seven hundred years is a bit much?"
"There are variables, yes, and we look at millions of alternate scenarios. I won't get into the specifics but suffice it to say that Kerig's suicidal attack more or less saves the galaxy in over 85% of all possible models."
"A B+ is a good grade."
"I have one more to show you," said Daniels, "This is Captain Marikii, a Vilosun. He, or I should say it is the captain during my lifetime."
"Vilosuns have no gender, they reproduce via parthenogenesis. And they are not bothered by being called 'it'. We who have a gender are squeamish, but they don't care."
"What has he, uh, it, uh Marikii done?"
"Marikii is in the middle of doing it. The Enterprise is on its way to the Pegasus galaxy."
"The Pegasus galaxy is what, five thousand light years away? Something like that?" said Jonathan, "Is that even possible?"
"Marikii's ship is going along at a Warp 23 clip."
Jonathan whistled through his teeth, "Warp 23. He, um, it must think we're driving a, ha, that we're wearing a brand new pair of roller skates," Jonathan sang the last seven words.
Daniels smiled, "Marikii thinks very highly of you, and Pike, Kirk, Sulu, and all of the others that came before him. He knows where he came from. You see, to Marikii, and to me, and to my generation, the past is to be fully respected."
"But you try to change it."
"Actually, what we do is, we work to restore it. Our mission is to keep it on an even keel, so that the ancestors who we respect can live their lives and do what they need to do, just as it's to be done. And I see Phlox is about done, so I'll have to go. Don't forget to go to the party," Daniels did a little dance step, "The seventies had some good moves, but be sure not to wear a leisure suit," Then he disappeared, and Jonathan awoke.
"Captain, how do you feel?" asked Phlox, holding a small vial containing a brownish liquid.
"I, Phlox, I feel pretty good. Did you fix what ailed me?"
"Yes, I think so, it seems you had a little food poisoning and it affected your motor control. But it wasn't serious and does not appear to have been deliberately caused."
Love! Love will keep us together
Think of me, babe, whenever
"Really, Ensign Masterson should stop using the intercom system to test out the music," Phlox complained, motioning to turn it off.
"It's all right," said Jonathan, "Long as you're not wearing a leisure suit."
Phlox undid the straps, "Can you stand?"
"I can even dance," said Jonathan, breaking into the same step that Daniels had just done.
"I'll have someone escort you to your quarters. And in response to your next question, you are still relieved of command for another day, but you can go to the party this evening so long as you do not drink anything of an alcoholic nature. Contact me if you have any problems."
Just like that, Jonathan was back in his quarters, with no side trips to kiss the floor or barge in on female crew members getting ready for their shifts. He switched on the dance instructions file that Lieutenant Reed had sent to everyone.
Suitably instructed, he was about to get up for a shower when the bell rang, "Yes?"
"Sir, I talked to Doctor Phlox and I understand you'll be joining us tonight. So I took the liberty of having this made up for you," Hoshi entered, carrying a large bag.
"Why, thank you, that was very thoughtful of you. I'll see you there," Hoshi left and Jonathan opened up the bag. It contained a white, three-piece suit and shoes. He put it on and struck a pose in the mirror, one hand over his head, index finger pointed at the ceiling, just like in that damned Saturday Night Fever movie that Tripp had suggested for the last movie night.
I've got to go where the people dance
I want some action, I want to live
Action, I've got so much to give
I want to give it, I want to get some, too
I love the night life
I've got to boogie
on the disco round, yeah
That was the cue that the party was starting. Jonathan made it to the mess hall, smiling and waving at all of the eager young crew members in designer jeans, halter dresses and, yes, leisure suits. He had to smile to himself when he saw Tucker in a leisure suit.
Columbia's crew had arrived and he looked for Erika. Ah, Erika Hernandez, the Columbia's lovely captain. And maybe, just maybe ...?
Ah, yes, it was true. She was! Really!
Burn, baby burn!
He walked up behind her, she was talking to someone who was obviously boring her, "Nice dress," he said, "You look beautiful."
Erika wheeled around on her heel, the uneven handkerchief hem of her dress swishing a little. She smiled at him, "We all saw the same movie. My chef's wearing the same suit, you might want to avoid him."
"Do I look better than he does?" said Jonathan, suddenly mindful that he was still a bit uninhibited. Nokarid, eh?
"Yes," she looked up at him, "Aren't you going to ask a lady to dance?"
"Yeah," he looked as if it had just dawned on him. The dance floor cleared.
"We've gotten a request," said Ensign Masterson over the intercom, "Put on your dancing shoes for this oldie but goodie."
More than a woman
More than a woman to me
Jonathan whirled Erika around effortlessly. It seemed as if both crews were all watching. She followed his every move. Close, then far away, his hand on her hip, looking into her eyes. He barely noticed when the song changed.
More, more, more!
How d'ya like it, how d'ya like me?
More, more, more!